Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Orioles fans stage walkout to express anger with owner

AP , BALTIMORE

Protesters opposed to Orioles owner Peter Angelos chant as they exit the stadium during the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers game on Thursday in Baltimore.

PHOTO: AP

Nearly a thousand disgruntled Orioles baseball fans walked out of Baltimore's game against Detroit en masse on Thursday, culminating a demonstration aimed at team owner Peter Angelos.

A majority of the protesters wore black T-shirts that read "FREE THE BIRDS," and many carried signs that had "For Pete's Sake" on one side and "Free the Birds" on the other.

They filled parts of six sections in the upper deck at Camden Yards, then walked out in the middle of the fourth inning at precisely 5:08pm -- in honor of former Oriole stars Brooks Robinson (No. 5) and Cal Ripken (No. 8).

The group walked in line through the lower deck before departing.

Baltimore is in the midst of its club-record ninth consecutive losing season, all of them under the leadership of Angelos, who gained control of the franchise in 1993.

"We are here to show our dissatisfaction with his role, and some of the stupid decisions he has made," said 43-year-old fan Eric Hunter. "We want someone in there who will spend the money to do the things that will bring the fans back."

Angelos defended the fashion in which he runs the team, which last reached the Major League Baseball playoffs in 1997.

"Whoever joins that protest has no comprehension of what it costs to run a baseball team," Angelos said in a telephone interview from his law office in Baltimore. "When you get down to facts, putting together a team that can compete in the AL East means having a payroll between US$100-US$110 million. That money comes from the consumer, and I have chosen to keep ticket prices to a minimum."

"Our payroll is US$75 million, and our ticket prices average US$22. Some of the teams we compete against charge an average of US$45," Angelos said. "We're going to have to match the competition. How to do that is a decision I will make in the future."

The rally was organized by Nestor Aparicio, owner of radio station WNST-AM and the nephew of former Orioles shortstop Luis Aparicio.

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